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Early returns suggest Gortat-Nene combo no longer works


Early returns suggest Gortat-Nene combo no longer works

The long-awaited duo of Marcin Gortat and Nene happened for the first time this season -- twice -- in the same game. And by any objective measure, it was a disaster and hammered home why the Wizards were wise to convert to a pace-and-space style of play.

In Monday's 108-98 loss, with Otto Porter, Drew Gooden and Otto Porter still out (and they will miss Wednesday's game vs. the Miami Heat), coach Randy Wittman had to try something to spark his team that was struggling from double-digit deficits in both halves.

"Who else do I have? I don’t have any other options right now," Wittman said. "So we got to make due. That’s not an excuse, I’m not making an excuse. We’ve played like this before.”

In Gortat's first two seasons here, beginning in 2013-14 when he was traded from the Phoenix Suns, he started at center next to Nene at power forward. But starting with last season's playoffs, because of Porter's emergence, the Wizards went to smaller lineups and came within a broken wrist for John Wall from the conference finals.

RELATED: Wizards already rule out players vs. Heat

Meyers Leonard, a 7-1 center, made 4 of 7 three point shots for the Portland Trail Blazers in Monday's 108-98 loss win vs. the Wizards. C.J. Miles, who was matched up with Humphries, made 8 of 9 threes for the Indiana Pacers in a Nov. 24 win over the Wizards. When the Wizards go big, too many teams in the NBA can deploy shooters and get wide-open looks. Even if they miss, they pull the big away from the basket to negate the rebounding. 

Nene and Gortat were together from 5:38 of the first quarter to 1:42. The Wizards went from being down 13 to a 22-12 deficit. In the third quarter, it was from 7:54 to 3:59. The Wizards went from a seven-point deficit to trailing 84-65.

The spacing isn't there. The passing lanes, which allowed the four dump-offs to Gortat for layups from Jared Dudley because he stretches the floor with his three-point range, disappear. 

Gortat began the game shooting 6-for-8 from the field as a result. He couldn't attempt a shot in the third quarter. 

Nene and Gortat are extremely valuable in their unique ways. Gortat gives the Wizards a viable pick-and-roll big who can get to the basket, and it also makes the defense respect potential drops to him which can open up shooters. Nene is a back-to-the basket option who is best suited as Gortat's backup, who defensively takes the Wizards to another level when he's not tasked with having to chase smaller, faster players 22 feet away from the rim.

Separating them to maximize them was the right move and the new offense, which allows the likes of Garrett Temple and Porter to take the ball off the rim, push the tempo in the open court and not rely on Wall to do everything. Generally, scoring isn't a problem for the Wizards. It's what goes on at the other end.  

"It's one time," Gortat said of going bigger with him and Nene. "It doesn't matter who put (Monday) on the court because we probably still get beat because these guys were making shots."

On rare occasions (and maybe this spate of injuries is an exception to the rule) should the Wizards roll back the clock, if ever again. If the opponent has a stretch four or spread five to expose them, it doesn't put Nene or Gortat in the best position to succeed. 

MORE WIZARDS: Protect the house? Wizards home struggles turning serious

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Caps winning, new practice facility has Ted Leonsis thinking bigger for Wizards: 'No excuses'


Caps winning, new practice facility has Ted Leonsis thinking bigger for Wizards: 'No excuses'

No matter what happens this fall and winter, the year of 2018 was a big one for Ted Leonsis. His Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup and the new practice facility and arena for the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go in Ward 8 was opened. Even his Valor won the Arena Football League and Wizards District Gaming played their inaugural season.

The Caps winning and the St. Elizabeth East Entertainment and Sports Arena opening its doors has Leonsis thinking bigger and particularly when it comes to the Wizards. As he puts it, there are "no excuses" anymore. It's time to accomplish their goals and Leonsis has some specific ones in mind.

"We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I'd like us to win 50 games. I'd like us to go to the Eastern Conference Finals," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington.

Leonsis, in many ways, feels like he has done his part as the owner. He has given the Wizards the resources to compete and win at the highest level. They have the salary commitment and the facilities that any team in the NBA would covet.

"We have one of the highest payrolls in the league with the Wizards. They have a beautiful, world-class practice facility. They're healthy entering the year," he said. "Alright Wizards. If you have this practice facility and one of the highest payrolls in the league and you're getting well-tended for your health, nutrition and the like; no excuses. Let's play ball."

When it comes to the practice facility, it's much more than just added space, new locker rooms and shiny courts. The Wizards will have at their disposal the newest training technology and all the medical resources they need from Medstar. 

The facility has a virtual reality room, which goes way beyond the headsets and cameras they have utilized in recent years. They will also have a sensory deprivation tank. 

It's a pod that fills with salt water and allows people to float without light or sound. The benefits include decompression of the spine, alleviation of soreness and muscle tension and stress relief. In case you are wondering, they aren't cheap.

The weight room at the Medstar performance center is also calibrated for different exercises and methods. And with more space, the Wizards can continue to move into the future from a technology perspective and stay ahead of the curve.

"It's not just being an early-adopter. If you make an investment in this size and scale, you'll be at an advantage because you can build in and not add on a lot of that right into the utility of the building," Leonsis said.

In having this type of facility for the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go, Leonsis hopes those teams can follow the model that worked for the Capitals. The Caps have had a specialized training facility in Ballston, Va. for years and have benefitted from a strong minor league system, most notably with the Hershey Bears. That top-to-bottom approach can help the Wizards, in particular, as they now have a G League affiliate.

The foundation is in place for the Wizards to someday compete for an NBA championship. Many never expected to see the day the Capitals would reach the mountaintop. Now the Wizards can follow the blueprint.

"We've proven that there is no [D.C. sports] curse," Leonsis said. "If you are patient and work hard and are committed to continuous improvement than you can win a championship."



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Wizards announce open practice date at brand new facility in Congress Heights


Wizards announce open practice date at brand new facility in Congress Heights

As they do every year, the Washington Wizards announced the date and time for Open Practice opening the doors to the brand spanking new St. Elizabeths Entertainment & Sports Arena in Congress Heights. 

Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 and practice is scheduled to begin one hour later. 

The event is open to the public and and the first 500 fans receive a slick T-shirt while the first 200 are invited for autograph-signing following practice. 

There will be several additional events taking place, including a dunk contest, performances by the Wizards Dancers and music from the Ballou High School Band.

RSVP to the event here:  http://info.washingtonwizards.com/Wiz-OpenPractice09-20-18 . 

"Fans are encouraged to travel to the event via Uber by entering in Entertainment and Sports Arena as the address or by Metro via the Congress Heights station on the green line," the team shared in its official press release. 

In addition to the facility being a practice location for the Wizards, it will also be home to the WNBA's Washington Mystics along with the G League's Capital City Go-Go. 

Washington begins its 2018-19 season Oct. 18 hosting the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena at 8:00 p.m.